Working under the premise that these are the Bronte sisters, and the
photo is a copy of a daguerreotype, this page examines clues in the image which may
help date the original photo.
If these are the Bronte sisters then the most likely location is York so the
photo could only have been taken after the opening of the photographic studio there in
September 1844 but before the death of Emily Bronte in 1848.
Charlotte and Emily are wearing thick travelling cloaks but Anne isn't. The
most plausible explanation for this is that Anne was still employed at Thorp Green Hall (about
12 miles from York) and that Charlotte & Emily had made the long journey to York
from Haworth. This would narrow the date to between September 1844 and
June 1845, when Anne's employment ended.
As far as can be ascertained, the only place in 1840s Europe where this
style of hat existed was Germany. The only person to enter Haworth Parsonage, freshly
arrived from Germany, was Mary Taylor when she stayed with the
sisters in December 1844. (see
Straw Hats & Cloaks)
Anne is thought to have spent the Christmas holidays at Haworth, returning to
Thorp Green Hall, near York on 18 January 1845, the day after her 25th birthday.
This again narrows the date of the photo to between 18 January 1845, and
Events of 1845.
The first six months of 1845: At Haworth, Charlotte was frustrated
because her letters to Constantin Héger received no response. Her plans to open a school
in the Parsonage had been abandoned. Patrick Bronte's eyesight was gradually worsening. Arthur
Bell Nicholls arrived in Haworth. Branwell & Anne were working at Thorp Green Hall for the
Robinson family. Branwell was continuing his affair with Mrs Robinson. Anne was writing
poetry, becoming depressed and may or may not have been aware of Branwell's affair. Emily was
just fine, writing poetry, cooking and cleaning at Haworth.
No Mention of York?
It is not yet known whether there is evidence that Charlotte and
Emily visited York together in 1845. If there is no mention of it in
their correspondence then it may be due to events taking place in this period.
Researchers depend heavily upon the letters between Charlotte and Ellen Nussey for
information, but at this point in time Ellen had problems as well. Her family was dealing
with her brother George's mental illness and early in 1845 she took him to Harrogate and
No Mention of a Photograph?
Some articles in newspapers and journals mention a
"photograph" or "daguerreotype" of the Bronte sisters. These are
thought to have been (collodion) photos on glass of Branwell's two group portrait
paintings, copied in the 1850s for Martha Brown. There is some evidence that an
actual photograph existed but this research is not yet complete. The
history of the other portraits may explain why there is no mention.1.
Who owned the Photograph?
Of the three sisters, Anne is the one most likely to have been interested
in photography. If she owned the photo it would have remained in her possession until her
death in May 1849. This may account for the word 'daguerreotype' appearing in
Charlotte's 'Shirley' (see Anne Bronte page).
If these are the Bronte sisters, and the photo was taken in York, then the few
clues we have suggest that it dates to sometime between 18 January
1845 and the end of June 1845. A number of days between these dates can